The third project was paid for by Yuriko Miyazaki and Andrew Robinson, and by another individual in memory of Joan M Dwyer. This was for my new hero, 72-year-old Kameyama-san, the only person on Oshika who was building his own house. He has worked so hard, all by himself, to the ridicule of so many others, and has built a lovely home for his family without knowing a thing about carpentry. He is such an inspiration and I think people like him deserve a break.
The first time I visited him he was a bit withdrawn and reluctant to tell me what he needed but eventually told me a few practical things. I subsequently visited him a few times, each time bringing him something different — some clothes I thought he would like, a stove heater I knew he needed, my toolbox from Tokyo, some chocolates on Valentine’s Day. Now he doesn’t stop chatting to me, although I swear he’s not speaking Japanese because I don’t understand anything he says, but he laughs non-stop and that makes me laugh so somehow we manage to have fun together.
He drove me to a recycle shop in Ishinomaki so we could kit out his kitchen — we got the biggest fridge I have ever seen (and it was worth it just to see his smile), a gas range, a microwave, a sink and cupboard unit, a kotatsu, and a small home shrine. It came to ¥85,000 and I had budgeted ¥100,000 so I gave him the remaining ¥15,000 to pay for an electrician/plumber to help him set it all up.
The recycle shop staff loaded up the back of Kameyama-san’s truck, and held everything down by ropes. They redid everything when I told them we would be driving on Oshika, which has lots of windy roads and hills, but I wasn’t convinced that the massive fridge would still be upright by the time we got there (if it made the journey back at all). Kameyama-san’s driving didn’t help things — he actually went right through a red light with traffic coming from every direction and me shouting “aka aka aka,” which made him laugh even more so we ended up just laughing together the whole way back.
Watching Kameyama-san and his friend unload everything, put it in a wheelbarrow, push it down a hill, over a tiny bridge, and down another hill (this time covered in mud) to the house was a sight I will never forget. We all agreed that the fridge wouldn’t make it so I came back the next day with strongmen Seiji and Hiroyuki, except it had snowed in the night so now the fridge had to make that journey but in the snow — watching these four men carrying the fridge all the way to the house was hilarious. I love the way that Kameyama-san finds fun and laughter in everything he does, and it was such an honour to be a part of it.